Homemade: Granola Bars

I am sitting here snacking on my very yummy (if I don’t say so myself) granola bars that I just made. I’ve tried just plain granola before but I wanted to try and make some of my own granola bars because I’m always looking for a quick snack that I can just grab either before a run or as I’m running out the door to run some errands. I have to say that although I love the convenience of granola bars I just haven’t found too many that I really love.  Maybe its because they tend to just taste too sweet, I’m just not sure. So awhile back we were sitting around watching “Good Eats” which a show my hubby (and I do too) loves and Alton Brown did a whole show on power snacks. (If you want to watch the whole episode which includes recipes for healthy rice crispy treats and energy bars you can youtube.com it and it is on there.) So I thought I should try these out myself and I had a few minutes today so I tried it.

I think the best thing about the recipe is that you can make it pretty much however you like with whatever ingredients you have on hand. I followed Alton’s recipe as a foundation. I didn’t have sunflower seeds (at least none that were fresh, the ones I had went to the garbage as soon as I opened the lid) or wheat germ. I am going to try to add at least the wheat germ next time because I think that ups the health factor a bit more on these. I added about a tablespoon of molasses too because some of the comments were that it seemed crumbly after people had cooked it and I wanted mine to be chewy. Also, next time I might put a bit less honey in since I added the molasses because they were a tad sweet. Now I had cran-raisins, regular raisins, sliced almonds and peanut butter chips on hand so that is what I threw into mine. The best part is that you can throw whatever dried fruit and nuts you have in your pantry right in. I also ended up keeping them in the oven for an extra 5 minutes because again I wanted to make sure that they would really stay together as a bar. I thought these were so much better than any store bought ones I’ve bought and I knew exactly how to pronounce and spell every ingredient in there!

***the pic above is what they looked like when I pulled them out of the pan, before I cut them into smaller pieces***

Great websites!

While perusing along on my favorite blogs I came across these 2 great posts today that I wanted to share. It seems like more and more people I’m talking to lately are looking into freezing, canning or making their own staple items. If you’ve followed some my previous posts I’ve gotten into this too and we’ve been making our own chocolate syrup, cookies, syrup, pizza dough, granola and  a few other items.  Both of the  below sites/blogs share links to recipes for creating a lot of your stock pantry type items.

Goodlifeeats.com has a great post that I linked to here that talks all about making your own bread, baking mixes, breadcrumbs, granola bars and a bunch of other things. I bookmarked it because I thought it was a great resource to have on hand.

simplebites.net is the original post that linked to the above one and she talks here about “wet” pantry items such as stocks, salad dressings, sauces, syrups, condiments and more. Pretty much everything else you could think of that might be in your fridge!

I feel like I hit the real food jackpot with all the info on these 2 sites! If anyone decides to check any of these recipes out let me know or if there is something you already make on your own, share the details!

What’s in season? Spinach!

Spinach is one of the things you can find a lot of right now at all the local farmers’s markets, along with asparagus, lettuce and a few other leafy greens. I actually saw my first strawberries too when I was out at one of my local farms this morning!

They had this recipe out at the New Garden Farmers market last weekend and I thought I’d share since I made it last week and it was super easy and very tasty. I would probably have lightened up on the dill just because it’s not one of my favorite spices (I like it, I just don’t love it).

Funny side story is that when my son asked what we were having for dinner and I told him that we were having spinach pie he was so excited! I was thrilled , of course, because normally he wouldn’t be that excited about eating a vegetable and less so about a green one. When I put it on the table he was like ” I thought you said we were having cinnamon pie”!  He had misunderstood spinach for cinnamon and that is quite the mixup! (although I have to admit that cinnamon pie really doesn’t sound that appealing to me)

Enjoy!

Spinach Pie with Feta and Dill
Print
Recipe Type: Entree
Author: Carin
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 40 mins
Total time: 1 hour 10 mins
An easy spinach pie with feta and dill.
Ingredients
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • cup minced onion
  • 12 oz. fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh dill (MUST be fresh)
  • tsp salt
  • tsp pepper
  • cup grated feta cheese
  • 1- 9 inch pie shell
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet; add onion and cook 5 minutes.
  3. Add spinach and cook till it is wilted and some of the liquid has evaporated.
  4. Turn off heat, let cool for 5 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle feta over spinach.
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, dill, salt and pepper together.
  7. Stir spinach and feta into egg mixture.
  8. Sprinkle feta onto bottom of pie crust.
  9. Pour spinach and egg mixture into crust.
  10. Bake 40 minutes till center is just set.
  11. Cool 10-15 minutes before serving.

the seedy underbelly of gardening…

so it is now May 6th and our garden is still NOT in! We have made progress but what people don’t tell you is that getting a garden put in a big PITA! (and for those of you don’t know what that means, it’s a Pain in the Ass!)  I am loving the idea of me out in the garden in my cute garden shoes and cute large floppy hat picking fresh tomatos and herbs for tonight’s dinner but getting there is hard work. The kind of work that Ina never tells you about when she walks out to her beautiful garden in the back of her Hamptons home. Here are some pics of all the work! It was a lot!

Below is my wonderful hubby who so graciously helped me (can’t you see that smiling face? He wasn’t smiling the entire time)

The pile of way too much soil that I ordered. Another indication that math is NOT my strong suit. This is a mixture of topsoil, mushroom soil and rocks for drainage.

My very sweet son who helped me a ton last weekend and I wheelbarrowed a million loads of the aforementioned soil in each of the 2 beds. I seriously must have made about 20 trips up the hill to where the gardens are from our driveway where the soil is, my hubby made at least that many too. That was NOT fun! This was another part that I had not anticipated and am hoping I don’t ever have to do again but on a positive note I seriously think I got an amazing workout while hauling that wheelbarrow back and forth.

***As of this writing both garden beds are in and the little plants are all safely tucked into their new homes (i’ll post those pics later).  Now I’m off to water my little slave masters…;)

menu planning w/e 5/8

I am getting a little lazy with my menu planning lately, not that i’m not still doing it, of course I am but i’m feeling a bit repetitive in my choices lately. I guess that happens to everyone. You just get into a food groove where you just kind of eat the same stuff over and over. I honestly try not to do that, sometimes to my husband’s detriment because he has to constantly try new things he usually doesn’t like. Have you figured out yet that there are some picky eaters in my family?

so here goes with a few of our meals for this week:

  • pizza-i made dough this week that is sitting in the fridge right now and with the weather getting nice here in PA I am going to throw some pizzas on the grill this week. I love the way that the crust cooks on the grill and it takes just a few minutes on each side (I drizzle some olive oil on it) and then put on my toppings and throw it on so the cheese gets melty.
  • burgers-just boring burgers
  • spring pasta-i think the one place each week where I’m really finding some creativity is in the vegetarian meal that I try to scrounge up at least once a week. I found this great website, 101cookbooks.com, that has a lot of wonderful natural food recipes. (I made pancakes this past weekend from one of her recipes, I’ll post that later) This seems like a super easy recipe that just incorporates whatever is fresh that you might have on hand. (why i didn’t just think of this on my own just goes to prove how uncreative I am when it comes to food) I have some asparagus which is in season right now, fresh basil, broccoli and some avocados!
  • skirt steak/yellow rice-same recipe i’ve made before (i actually never made it those other weeks because “my farm” was out of it until last week) I love steak on the grill and this is one of those cuts that is delicious
  • NY strip steaks with mushrooms and blue cheese, baked potatoes-every couple of weeks my hubby and i put the kids to bed a little earlier than usual (ok, it’s still light out but we ignore that) and pull out the good stuff like steaks and a nice bottle of cab and have a nice, quiet meal by ourselves.
Can you tell we eat a lot of red meat? I’m not sure if that 1 veggie day a week is really counteracting that 😉 I might try to squeeze some pork chops in there too because I am able to get pork now at the farm I shop at.
We’ve also been working our butts off trying to get our garden ready. Let me tell you that there is a very unglamorous side to gardening that Ina (Garten, that is) has managed to hide from me when she goes out to her beautifully manicured garden to pick her fresh herbs. We were hot, sweaty and very tired is all I can say. Those veggies better be darn good!

Homemade: (Pizza) dough

So one of the things that I started making myself a while back was pizza dough. For a long time I would buy that stuff that comes in the can that pops and scares the life out of me (that isn’t why I stopped using it though). We really just found that although it says pizza dough on the outside of the can it really never tasted like any dough we’ve ever eaten at any good pizza place that we liked so I went on a search to make my own. While looking for a recipe I found out that is SUPER easy to make and that I can make a couple batches and freeze it so that whenever we want to have pizza or calzones or anything like that I just pull out dough from our freezer.

Now I always use Ina’s recipe for this (i just use this for the dough but i’m sure the rest of the recipe would be great too)  but I’ve made it with only whole wheat flour and only white flour and 1/2 of each. In my opinion when I’ve used the whole wheat flour only it comes out a bit too dense for me. When I go to roll it out it is pretty hard to stretch out so this time I made it using 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 white. There is a white whole wheat that exists but I haven’t tried that out yet so I just use the regular white. I would prefer to just use the whole wheat since I want to get the processed foods out of our diet but alas i’m not that happy with the full whole wheat version yet.  Above is pic before it rose, I am bad about taking pics so I forgot to get an after one. If I have time and enough yeast around I usually make 2 batches and then I have enough for a while. Usually one batch like this is enough for 2 large pizzas.

So next time you feel like ordering a pizza or popping open one of those cans of dough try making your own. It is super easy and quick and when you can control the ingredients it can be even better for you!

April budget update and what I’m learning

So, we are a week away from wrapping up April and I am happy to say that so far this month I’ve managed to stay within my alloted grocery budget of $150/wk (I put aside $625 for the month to give myself a little cushion). I know I still have a week left but I don’t think it will be a problem given the fact that we ate out a lot this past week due to it being spring break (and that obviously meaning that I’m taking a break from cooking!) so much of the meat that i bought last week didn’t get used and I’m holding onto it for next week (because it was in the freezer, of course).

The other thing is that with the $150 i’m not just buying food, that includes wine, diapers, formula and the other paper products and toiletries that our house needs so I’m thinking that that is actually pretty good and I am quite pleased that I’m getting on a better track with this.  The other thing that I’m pleased with is the fact that we are buying only organic produce (when its available) and all our meat and dairy is also grass fed and from sustainably managed local farms. This exercise is really showing me that I should have been buying better food all along and that our budget was really no excuse. We’re spending the same if not less on groceries than we were several months ago when I first started this experiment. Without a doubt menu planning has been the key to keeping things on track. Because I go into my shopping with very specific recipes for the week I am not buying things that we won’t eat that week, which means I spend less and so much less food goes to waste. Not to mention that we aren’t eating junk that’s just lying around the house. I have actually lost weight over the last 6 weeks (not a lot but enough to get me below my pre-children weight). I really think that not buying as many processed foods and not having as many snacks lying around also helps. Plus when I only have $150 for the whole week I tend to skip the impulse things that get me at the grocery store (which is basically anything in the bakery department).

Of course one of the more challenging parts is that the fact that I don’t just shop in 1 place for everything, I now go to 3 or many times even 4 different places to find all of the ingredients for our weekly meals and all of the other things that help our house run smoothly. Luckily most of the places I go to are not far from my house and I enjoy finding new places to get my food and meeting new people.

One of the things that people have been asking me about since I started this journey is what foods would they could start out with if they are new to eating better food. I found a great list on thedailygreen.com that talks about what items to try to buy organically if you can because the conventionally grown items come in the most contact with pesticides and other bad for you things. Some of the things they list are:

1. Meat

2. Milk

Basically if you are eating the animal or a direct by product of that animal you eat what it eats. If it is getting antibiotics, hormones or anything else you are eating those too so meat and milk seem to be 2 of them more obvious items.

3. Coffee -now I would not have thought of coffee but according to this list because pesticides and chemicals aren’t as regulated in other countries you can’t be sure what is in the coffee you are most likely drinking

4. Celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, bell peppers, spinach- there are more but basically the gist is that its best to stay away from items that don’t have a tough skin that you can peel easily

5. Potatos- we eat so many that I was shocked to read that they can be laced with with up to 37 different pesticides

They also have a great list of 15 items that you can skip on buying organically if you want to maximize your dollar.

So if you have the opportunity check out a site like localharvest, punch in your zip code and say Hi to some local growers in your area. You’ll be doing something good for you and for your community.